The Trail Stingrays Swim Club was a juggernaut last year and with most of the team returning, the coach looks to repeat as meet champs.
The Stingrays host their annual swim meet this weekend at the Trail Aquatic Centre. The club is essentially the same team as last year when they claimed victory at their own meet, the Colville Swim Meet, and at the Regionals and finished second in three other swims in the Kootenay Region. Further buoyed by a number of new and eager editions to the younger age groups, swim coach Ryan Gurney looks to improve on last year’s performance.
“Based on last year, I think going into this season you’re going to have the same results or yield even better results,” said Gurney.
About 40 swimmers will compete in seven meets this season, in addition to the Regionals and a chance at the Provincials.
While a three-peat at the Regional meet would be a great accomplishment, Gurney sees the Provincials as the ultimate test for his swimmers.
“In swimming, there’s so much more to it than just winning the Regional Championship,” said Gurney. “It’s more of an individual sport, so it’s really about the swimmers and they want to achieve their standards . . . the kids are really there at regionals to try and qualify for provincials.”
Gurney is a student at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence in Victoria. He has coached the Rays for the last three seasons but has been involved with the team as a competitor since he was a kid.
Over the years, the club has grown and improved to the point where they are now one of the elite teams in the Kootenays.
“I’ve been part of the region for over 15 years, and in the past few years, it’s some of the best results I’ve ever seen at the provincials.”
And as much as the 22-year-old likes his swimmers to win medals it’s more about gaining a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction from posting personal bests.
“It’s a good lesson for the kids, they learn how to set goals and time management and setting those goals and achieving them I think is what really matters to them.”
The club is training hard for their home meet, putting in time working on the details.
“The starts, turns and finishes are really important. I call those ‘The skills,’” that can make a difference in races that are often determined by hundredths of a second.
Parent volunteers are vital to the success of the Stingrays Meet.
“They basically run the meet, they are amazing, they all volunteer their time and spend all Friday night setting up the meet, and there’s parents there all weekend running every single thing from being the referee, the meet managers, to serving the deck food and just monitoring the whole event so it does take a huge amount of effort to run a swim meet.”
Along with assistant coaches Ann Marino and Christine Cook, Gurney is excited for the upcoming season and hopes to build on the success of last year.
More importantly, the kids are also learning new cheers, said Gurney, which is the best part of any swim meet.